TBT 2019 heroes relive biggest moments of last year's tourney

 

By: Dylan Woods 


We caught up with some of TBT 2019's biggest stars

Last summer we saw some of the most electrifying moments in TBT history. Upsets were littered across the bracket, Elam Endings delivered at the highest echelon of excitement, and a new champion was crowned after a four-year run by Overseas Elite came to an end. We decided to call up TBT 2019’s biggest heroes and relive some of the most exciting moments of the tournament.

PJ Hairston hits game-winner after three-year hiatus from competitive basketball 

After retiring from basketball in 2018, PJ Hairston wasn’t sure if he was ever going to play basketball at a high level again. Retirements can be temporary, but his stint in the NBA as a first-round pick out of North Carolina came and went. 

But, last year, Hairston’s hometown friend Chris Paul asked him to join his squad for TBT. Hairston - who met Paul at a North Carolina basketball tournament when CP3 was at Wake Forest - jumped at the opportunity after three years away from the game. 

What’s the best way to repay a friend? Tie game at 76, three points to reach the Elam Ending target score, no problem. Hairston caught the ball at the top of the key, shook a defender on the stepback, and then buried a triple to send Team CP3 to the second round as Paul watched from the bench. 

 

“In the huddle, I said ‘I’m shooting this shot,’” Hairston remembers. “And I’m going to make the shot. We’re going home tonight with a win”

They would end up bowing out in the Greensboro Regional Championship Game, but that didn’t hamper the experience for Hairston.

“I [had] never hit a game-winning shot before,” said Hairston. “Ever since [leaving the NBA], the game has changed me back to who I was. It made me hungry.”

 

Tristan Spurlock hits back-to-back game-winners to send Team DRC to Regional Finals

Leading up to TBT 2019, Team DRC started to click as a team. The group, assembled by former NFL cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, played in some money tournaments in the Orlando area, winning every one they entered and even beating some fellow TBT teams along the way.

However, when late July rolled around and they saw their draw for the main event, Team DRC couldn’t have been too pleased. They were a six-seed, and even worse their first round opponent was Ram Nation, a group of VCU alumni playing in their home arena at the Siegel Center. 

Even though it was a virtual road game Team DRC didn't back down. Up 71-64 with an Elam Ending target score of 72, Spurlock got a breakaway dunk and flushed it home to seal the upset. 

 

The following day the opponent was The Web, a group of University of Richmond alumni who played their college ball 10 minutes from the Siegel Center. In front of another Virginia-leaning crowd, Spurlock, who is a DC native, gave the audience a taste of deja vu. Up 72-71 and needing just two to win, the former UCF forward pulled up from deep and buried a three to give Team DRC two upset wins in two days. Even better? He got to show up a heckling fan in the crowd.

 

“This man kept yelling my name all game,” said Spurlock. “On the bench, he was yelling my name the whole time. So I hit the game-winner. It was really deep, way beyond NBA. And I remember hitting it, turning around, and just pointing at him. 

“After the game his son came up and wanted a picture with me...so Dad had to eat it.”

Continuing their draw from hell, Team DRC matched up against Overseas Elite in the regional finals. They led by a few points in the fourth quarter, but the four-time defending champions dominated the end of the game and Spurlock’s team went out 78-70.

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Still, the display put on will not be forgotten anytime soon. Anybody who has the moxy to take and make two straight Elam Ending game-winners, especially one from the logo, knows what it takes to be a winner and deliver down the stretch. 

“You got to know, in those situations, that you can’t second guess anything,” said Spurlock. “You got to know, ‘If I catch this, it’s going up. I’m making this. I’m getting us outta here.’”

David Lighty ends Overseas Elite's 29-game win streak

At some point all things come to an end. For Overseas Elite, that date was August 4, 2019, when Carmen’s Crew handed TBT royalty its first-ever loss in the tournament after 29 straight victories and four championships.

The one to put the nail in the coffin was David Lighty. With a target score of 71 and the Crew up 69-66, Lighty found himself in the right place at the right time. As teammate Jeff Gibbs drove to the basket, the ball was poked away but it bounced right to Lighty. He converted the easy dunk, sending the group of Ohio State alumni to the Championship Game. 

 

“During the moment, no,” said Lighty, when asked if there was any pressure. “You’re locked into the game, not thinking about anything else. Just go out there and do what you’ve been doing since you were eight years old.”

“When I’m watching as a fan, I’m way more nervous. It’s just you and the rim out there when you’re playing.”

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After coming down from the high of beating a previously insurmountable champion, Carmen’s Crew got locked in for the Championship Game against the Golden Eagles, Marquette’s alumni team. 

“It was great,” said Lighty of the win. “But the mission was to win it all. So we won a battle, but the war had to continue. For us, we had to refocus and get ready for the next game.”

Lighty and Carmen’s Crew would get a huge lift in the Championship Game from an unexpected and battered teammate...

Jon Diebler nabs the biggest steal in Carmen's Crew history despite broken finger

By the time they reached the Championship Game, Carmen’s Crew seemed to have their roles figured out. William Buford and David Lighty were the team’s leading scorers. Aaron Craft was the floor general at point guard. Jeff Gibbs manned the paint and served as some rim protection down low.

However, every team needs a little bit of glue. Somebody that keeps the stitching of a group together when adversity hits. Enter: Jon Diebler.

After coming off the bench on fire in the first quarter, Diebler broke his finger right before halftime. Then, a la Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals, he came back onto the court in the second half. But unlike Reed, who scored just 4 points on a broken leg in Game 7, Diebler had a much more pivotal role to play. In a tight game, Diebler came off the man he was guarding, poked the ball away from a Marquette player, and ran down the other way for an easy layup to bring Carmen's Crew within two points of the target score.

 

“I was going to play regardless,” said Diebler of whether he thought of staying out of the game. “It was on my left hand, so I wasn’t really too worried about it.”

Broken finger and all, Diebler was able to provide just the punch his team needed. A couple minutes later William Buford hit a free throw to get Carmen's Crew to the target score of 66 and a $2 million Zelle payment. 

For the Crew, some of whom were on the 2012 Ohio State team that lost to Kansas in the Final Four, it was a form of redemption. For Diebler, it was a chance to contribute to a team built for success.

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“It was fun to win with the guys, and obviously winning that money helps,” said Diebler.

And perhaps his share of the dough went towards mending up that finger. Since the 2019 final, Diebler has had four surgeries performed. But in the end, it was all worth it. 

“[The finger] is fine now,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all.